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Software: buy or build?

01 Jan 2011

Many organisations come face to face with the dilemma of whether to build business software or buy an out-of-the-box solution. This decision is made even more challenging by the fact that neither provides the perfect answer. Each of these choices has feats and flaws which I will explain shortly. I will also bring to the table another option that you may not have considered – xRM.Pros of Building:Choosing to build a software solution means that it will (hopefully) work specifically for you and your business. We all know that every organisation is unique, so really the only guarantee of having a software system to meet all of your individual needs is to have a tailored system created. This is by far a more ‘productivity-encouraging’ option.Cons of Building:The bottom line is, it is expensive. There is also the concern that you will be held for ransom by your software developers, ending up very dependent on them and left with no say. In building a solution you must commit to an ongoing investment with your development company to be able to keep your solution up to date. This option also has a time factor – building a customised solution is often a very lengthy process with much back and forth communication, and of course, the risk of not getting exactly what you had envisioned. In my experience, I have often found that the software developer underestimates what it will take to deliver the solution. Pros of Buying:This is a comparatively inexpensive option. The solution can be deployed very quickly, meaning little disruption within your organisation. A packaged solution will already have been extensively tested and any bugs eliminated before it gets to you, meaning your mind will be put to rest when it comes to performance problems. At the end of the day this is a more ‘reliable’ option.Cons of Buying:The biggest issue of implementing an out-of-the-box solution is that it may only do 60 or 70% of what you need it to do. Then that poses the question: how do you address the remaining issues? There are many factors to take into consideration in buying a pre-packaged solution, such as if you can integrate it with your other business systems. If you are planning to customise on top of the out-of-the-box system, you also may find yourself facing the same issues as that of building. If you don’t make any customisations, you are forced to adapt your existing business systems to fit the product.The Other Option – xRM:xRM is a combination of buying and building. It is not a product as such, but a strategy for building a solution unique to your needs. The difference from straight building a system is that xRM builds on top of an existing platform. No matter what your organisation does, an xRM solution can address your unique requirements. Pros of xRM:To sum up, xRM encompasses the pros of both the build and buy options, and is business-focused rather than software-focused. The xRM platform takes into consideration some essential things, like accessibility, who will be using it, and which processes could benefit from automation from the very beginning. This enables you to leverage existing technologies, is more cost-effective than a straight build, yet it has the reliability of the buy option. An xRM solution can be integrated with your other essential business system, giving you connectivity and collaboration that was not previously possible. You also won’t ever be held ransom by your developer. As xRM is a standardised platform, it can be picked up at any stage by another competent developer who already understands the technology, eliminating any fear of being left unsupported.Cons of xRM:This is still a more expensive option than a straight ‘buy’ solution; however in considering the productivity, you will be rewarded by having a system work completely for your organisation’s requirements.The third option of an xRM solution seems to be the clear winner. Of course, it always depends on the needs of an individual organisation and factors such as time, resources and budget. It is important to remember that software should be created to work the way you work, not the other way around.